Monday, 2 July 2007

Do not!

Some time ago I warned you not to go barefoot into the sea. That warning is not meant for the sandy beaches here on Lesvos, like at Petra and Anaxos, but for all stony beaches. It's not just for show that they sell water shoes here in all the shops: there are sea- urchins here in the sea!

In Dutch they are called sea-hedgehogs: spiny balls which live in large numbers here on the sea bottom, near the coast. They prefer an environment with rocks and stones. Inside these spiny balls they hide a marvellous kind of roe, which is best described as sea- caviar. It melts on the tongue and you swallow it smoothly and saltily away.

You swallow quite differently when you step on a sea-urchin. More than one fine needle will penetrate your foot and it will take a lot of patience, and maybe even some tears from the pain, to get them out. So be wise and visit a doctor, to be sure that they are all out of your feet. The needles tend to infect your feet.

I never warned you about the wall that lines the cliff side of the road going to the harbour in Molyvos. It is very nice to sit on this wall and enjoy the view over the magic Bay of Molyvos. But at some places it also offers a view of nasty steep precipices.

For years now this wall has been a dangerous place for night-revellers. They may be enchanted by the moon throwing its shiny moonbeams over the water and may get reckless because of too many drinks. They take strolls along this wall, when the precipices are shrouded in darkness.

So sometimes tourists fall off the wall, ss a man did last weekend. But this time he did not survive. Because it happened at about 5 o'clock in the morning nobody saw it happen, so it's not sure why and how this man came to fall. He was found hours after the accident. Some years ago two Dutch men were luckier. After some hours they were found still alive.

While talking about the dangers of the island, I also want to point out the danger of fire. Lesvos survived the last heat wave well. On other islands, like Samos and Chios there were some forest fires, but Lesvos stayed flame-free. However a big catastrophe happened on the slopes of Parnitha, a mountain close to Athens. The fire destroyed at least 3,000 hectares of the forest, which is considered one of the main green lungs of Athens. The weekend after the heat wave there was ash raining down on the Greek capital. Another fire disaster took place at the old Troodos forest on Cyprus.

I still remember when about 15 years ago we drove along a small path in that mighty old forest. The path was too small to turn the car around, so we were forced to drive along, deeper and deeper into the wood without meeting anybody, the impressive trees becoming higher and higher, the atmosphere even becoming fearsome. After some two hours we ended up in an open place where there was an enormous clock. The clock didn't show the time, but the level of danger from fires. That gigantic clock then had its indicator on green, but I never forgot the image of the clock.

If that clock hasn't been eaten away by fire it will probably now indicate the red area. It might have been warning people, but it didn't prevent an ecological disaster. Cyprus was even helped by firemen from Lebanon, Italy and Israel. They managed to extinguish the fire.

I hope tourists don't start a fire in order to clear the trees from the plot of land on which they want to build their dream house. But around Athens it's common that developers become arsonists in order to get more building land. However there are tourists that, used to a wet climate, just throw their cigarettes ends from their cars. So, my dear smokers, please be careful when smoking. Try not to smoke in the car when all the windows are open, so that a spark will fly into the countryside, don't flick the ash over you shoulder, don't just throw your cigarette away and put some water in your ashtray when it is windy. A small spark is enough to start a fire and we don't want a blackened Lesvos, do we?

One thing that's officially forbidden in Greece is dogs in the sea. They don't strictly enforce this but it may happen that some old Greek lady that thinks that dogs in the sea are dirty will scold you, when she finds out it is your dog swimming in the sea. Our dogs are not very happy swimmers, but in the latest heat wave even Rocky was happy to be immersed in the sea. To get dry he rolls in the seaweed so that he looks like a sea-urchin. Albino lets himself go a few paces into the sea. Then he sits down, looks around to chack that everybody sees he is such a hero and leaves the water only half wet. He still doesn't understand how to cool off in the water.

I take it that you know that swimming after a big meal is out of the question. Some people think that this is an old wives tale. Every year in Greece a few people drown because they went swimming right after dinner.

And then there are still people who don't know how to survive a heatwave. They are on holiday, so they have to go to the beach. Heatwave or not, they go in the middle of the day sunbathing. Recently on Crete a 17 year old girl died of heat stroke!

This column isn't translated into Greek. Otherwise I would have added some do-nots for the Greeks as well. Like dumping their trash everywhere, like overtaking while you're approaching a bend in the road, like chatting in you car in the middle of the street with one of your friends standing by the road, like the nasty habit of pretending that you are all alone on the beach and screaming to your kids all the time, kids screaming even louder back, like picking your place on an empty beach, just one metre from the only other people on the beach, like in an overcrowded cafetaria ordering the impossible and changing your order at the last minute or those reckless taxi drivers many of whom drive too fast.

Well, anyhow, the Greeks at least know the wonderful taste of the sea- urchins, they know what pain follows when you step upon them and they know what a catastrophe can be a forest fire. There are not many Greeks walking on walls longing precipices and you will never see them in the middle of the day working on their fields or sunbathing on the beach. They already know a lot of do-nots that you still have to learn...

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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